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Beijing non-permanent resident mothers return to their hometown, for their children to attend school

February 11, 2015

Ziqiang School gate

konjaku: some non-permanent residents delay getting the temporary residence permit because they see it as a way the local government extracts money from them, without giving them in return any of the benefits permanent residents get in medical care and school admissions. Applying for a temporary residence permit makes them “visible” to the local government, which then makes them liable for other local fees, even though higher levels of government have forbidden this practice. The perspective of the local government is that it is providing services –trash collection, police protection, etc. –for an increasingly large group of people who do not contribute to funding these services through local taxes.

The national government has announced it will spend a huge amount of money annually over the next 20 years to turn non-permanent residents into permanent residents with all the privileges of an urban hukou (registered permanent residence). It believes that turning the migrant population from agrarian areas into full fledged urban residents is a critical step in China’s modernization. Therefore on the one hand it wants to free them from onerous fees, but on the other, if it is going to pay for increased social services for them, it also wants to set certain conditions and obligations in return.

But for the local government, the immediate issue is: how will we pay the salaries of our cadres, if the majority of people in a residential district do not pay local taxes? The meaning of social security payments, or “social insurance” as it is sometimes translated (shebao 社保, short for shehui baoxian社会保险) lies somewhere between the aspirations of the national government and the financial straits of local government, overlapping and contradicting ripples of influence on the lives of families who have moved to the cities. For these people, social security is like paying for the promise of something in the future, which in practice can be revoked at any time. However, those who did not have the foresight, or the means, to pay social security, starting in the indefinite past, find that this is now used against them as a barrier to the services they most need, and may delay or alter their transition to permanent residency.


Beijing non-permanent resident mother resigns job to return to her hometown in order for her son to attend school, in the class of 54 the majority are also returning students

Original title: Struggle of non-permanent resident children to defend their education rights

Source Caijing, author Wu Shan

On 07-09, Zhang Ailing boarded the train with her child to go back to her home –Shanxi province, Datongtian county-town. This was the first time in more than 10 years, since arriving in Beijing, that her family had been separated, with her husband remaining behind in the city. This was the result of several months of struggle, in which, having failed to knock open the heavy gate protecting Beijing public middle schools, Zhang Ailing had no choice but to resign from her job, and return to her hometown. There, in a rented room, she became a full time “school mother,” (a mother who attends to the daily needs of her child attending school) while her husband remained in Beijing to continue to manage a car repair business.

Before the summer vacation started, Zhang Ailing’s son was a sixth grade student at a non-public school in the Chaoyang district. According to the school zone they were in, her child after graduating 6th grade should have moved on to Naizifang Middle School. But because of the new school registration management stipulations in Beijing this year regarding “entering primary school” and “entering middle school,” the school district put out a new requirement that non-permanent residents must have paid social security. Before the middle school sign-up time Zhang Ailing travelled back to her hometown once, to get help in filling in all the information needed to complete the school registration procedures. However, because they had not paid social security, they were unable to get a temporary attendance permit to attend Naizifang Middle School.[ Non-permanent residents attend school by obtaining temporary school attendance permits, the 在京借读证明] She found out hers was not a special case, “In my child’s class there are 54 students, the majority are those who have gone through the same thing already, and returned home.”

Starting in the 5th month, in Tongzhou, Chaoyang, Haidian, etc., non-permanent resident families have been scurrying around frantically trying to place their children in schools. On 05-19, close to 200 Tongzhou non-permanent resident family heads went to the Beijing city government complaints office, requesting a unified plan for their children to attend primary school.

On 06-16, more than 120 non-permanent residents of Cuigezhuangxiang and Shibailidianxiang villages in Chaoyang, went to the district Education Commission office to struggle for school admissions rights, and for a time this became a clash with police.

On 06-18, more than 60 non-permanent residents of Haidian district Shijiqingxiang village presented a petition to the district Education Commission expressing their unhappiness with the fact that their children had been assigned to a private primary school, the Bejing Shangli Foreign Language School.

On 06-21, Zhang Ailing along with some 300 others, took their children and went to the Beijing city government complants office to present a petition. Their children held small cards saying “Children want to go to school” and the adults chanted that slogan, although some mothers broke down and wept. The same afternoon, an Education Commission official granted an interview to 18 household heads, each acting as representative of one of 18 villages or towns in Chaoyang. However, that same evening, these representatives all received warnings from certain parties.

There are other household heads who are in the same predicament as Zhang Ailing. They sent their child to a private primary school which lacked academic credentials. Now, when it was time for junior middle school, they needed to complete the Network forms and receive a School Registration Number for their child, and submit their documents to be examined and verified.

One month prior, the parents of 9 third year junior middle school students filed suit in court against the Beijing Examination Board, because their children were not allowed to take the upper middle school entrance exam due to household registration problems. On 06-12, the Haidian district court began hearing the case, and on 07-11 the judgement was issued –they lost the case.

In the Tongzhou district 5 non-permanent resident parents of primary school age children filed suit against the Tongzhou and Beijing Education Commissions. The court refused to take the case, and their suit was rejected. Other groups in Chaoyang were considering filing suits.

At least on the surface, the struggle over a “defense of education rights” broke out because of the vacillation and opaqueness in the process of forming the policy. On a deeper level, it is the lack of ordered arrangement between the existing education resources and the management system in charge of them, as well as the prevailing mode of thought calling for strict control in all things regarding the floating population, that is the underlying cause of the intensifying contradictions.

On 04-18, the Beijing Education Commission released their compulsory education school admissions document for 2014, which required that non-permanent residents produce the “five proofs.” (1:proof of current employment in Beijing,2:proof of domicile within Beijing, 3: the permanent-residence booklet for the whole family, 4:the temporary residence permit, and 5: proof that at the registered permanent residence [the hometown of the migrant family] there is no guardian who can support the child’s schooling at that location.) This was not new. The Education Commission has been requiring the five proofs since 2012. What is new this year, is that the Education Commission empowered each district to “integrate its practice and establish and implement its own detailed regulations.”

After this, each district added its own strict stipulations on top of the five proofs. For example, Dongcheng district requires that both parents both live and work in the district, Fengtai requires that at least one of the parents works in the district, Haidian requires that both parents have temporary resident permits that were transacted before 2014-03-01, Changping requires that both parents hold a temporary residence permit issued before 2013-12-31, which is still current. In addition, they have added a new condition to the five proofs, requiring proof that applicants have made social security payments. For instance, Tongzhou requires both parents to have made social security payments inside the district from 2013-01 to 2014-03, amounting to at least 12 months of payments. Chaoyang also requires both parents to have paid social security. It is this one stipulation that is making it impossible for many non-permanent resident children to complete the verification process.

“The 5th and 6th month of 2014 was for all non-permanent resident families a black period of humiliation and anger.” This appeared in the written complaint of Cuigezhuangxiang household heads, titled, “Our road is where?” After waiting for what seemed like forever for a response, the Cuigezhuangxiang government on 06-13 answered, stating that 25 family applications had been verified, while 13 others needed to undergo a second round of examination. Considering that 500 families had applied, this seemed a completely inadequate response.

On 05-26, in response to their challenge, the Beijing city Education Commission responded to the Cuigezhuangxiang household heads saying, “the city has no authority to intervene in the particular rules and regulations formulated and implemented by the districts,. Because primary education is a district matter, the city does not directly manage any primary school. In school admissions, we can only give guidelines, but the district shoulders the responsibility.” Zhang Ailing and the other household heads were puzzled, finding this difficult to accept. The school admissions policy was unclear and vacillating. On 05-05, the Chaoyang district initial sign-up day for school admissions, there had not been any mention of the social security requirement. It was only several days later, when families returned to hand in their “five proofs,” that they were told both parents had to have made social security payments inside the district.

On 05-09, the Chaoyang Education Commission, in response to the parents’ report of the situation, had the Cuigezhuangxiang village office announce that the social security restriction would be relaxed. “But then on 06-13, the village government informed us that we should have paid for a half year of social security prior to 05-25 –why didn’t they tell us this earlier?” A household head did not understand.

Then, on 05-26 and 05-27, the village government announced that 69 applicants in two categories had been verified and and added to the roster. The household heads could come in and receive the Temporary School Attendance Certificate. However, what happened next was dramatic: on the 27th, those who went in the morning got their Certificates, but those who went in the afternoon were told, “Issuing of Temporary School Attendance Certificates has been suspended.” One household head who returned empty handed said, “a village government staff member said there was a mistake with their records.”

Faced with increasing strong challenges, on 05-29 the Beijing Education Commission announced that those non-permanent resident families who could not assemble the “five proofs” could not attend Beijing schools, and they could not get a school registration number. They had to take their child back to the place where they had their registered permanent residence. The school in that place was required by law to admit them, and was responsible for issuing them a [national] school registration number. In other words, they left it up to the government administrations in the areas the migrants came from, to solve their school registration problem.

As for criticisms concerning the policy, they responded publicly, that some district’s requirements concerning the social security payments and temporary residence permits were not reasonable. As to whether there was a remedy or not, the city had not yet gotten involved. This was too little, too late.

Just when the non-permanent resident household heads were in a terrible fix, it got worse. Chaoyang gave notice to19 schools for temporary workers, with 10,000 students, to “reorganize and reform” in a week, or face closure. “They call it reorganize and reform, but in reality they just want to ban the schools,” said Han Haixue, the principal of the Ziqiang [self-improvement] Experimental School, one of the targeted schools. The household heads with children in these schools in Cuigezhuangxiang village and Gaobeidianxiang all received telephone notifications from the village committee and the neighborhood committee. “They said to us, those schools are unable to function. They wanted us to go to the school and take a voucher, and then transfer our children back to the school in our hometown,” one mother said. In 2011, Chaoyang, Daxing and Haidian in Beijing banned some 20 of these schools and shut them down, leaving 60 remaining in all of Beijing. These are schools which have not been examined or approved. 19 out of 60 of these schools are in Chaoyang, and it is these 19 which are the subject of the current action.

[For the 2011 ban, see

The Ziqiang [self-improvement] Experimental School was one of those shut down, and the students were divided. Some were diverted to a nearby public school, others to another temporary workers school. At a different Ziqiang branch campus there was no place to send the students when it shut down, and they were held back. “The object of the reorganize and reform order this year is not to divert students to other schools, but to send them back to where they came from,” said Han Haixue. Han Haixue said he heard directly from the mouth of a law enforcement officer on the Education Commission, “This is the leaders’ idea, part of the larger trend to coalesce and implement management of the floating population –you are expected to cooperate.” Shi Heng, who had two daughters in the Ziqiang [self-improvement] Experimental School, felt deeply worried. “I want to transfer to a public school, but because we, a peasant household with twin daughters, do not have social security, they will not take us. If we send our children back home to Handan city in Hebei, my parents are too old to look after them. Do they really want to force us to go back to our home village?” Shi Heng and her husband have been in Beijing for 10 years, working at building construction sites.

Ziqiang School with volunteer workers

Ziqiang School with volunteer workers


Hongxiang’school board chair Huang Bing said, “A Chaoyang Education Commission staff member advised us to send our students back to their hometowns to obtain their school registration number there. Then they could come back and attend our school on a temporary basis.” But many principals of temporary worker schools said their students ran into difficulties.

According to the measure set up 2013-09-01, the 200 million middle school and primary students will all receive a school registration number for life, which will be recorded in a nation-wide database. Every student will need this number to take high school entrance exams. Beijing has set up the webpage which is the point of entry into the database, and all families with children of the appropriate age are required to register. Non-public schools [such as most schools for children of temporary workers], which have not been examined and approved by the Education Commission, are not in the database. Therefore students who attend these schools cannot enter their information in the database and receive a school registration number. This means they are not eligible to take senior middle school or high school exams.

Starting in the third month of this year, parents, students, and the principals of Temporary Worker Schools have repeatedly gone to the Ministry of Education, the city and district Education Commissions in Chaoyang, Daxing, Haidian, Changping and Tongzhou, requesting that the registered permanent residence locations and the Beijing schools link together to give the approximately 70,000 non-permanent residence students currently residing in these Beijing districts the ability to get a school registration number.

On 05-19, the Ministry of Education issued a printed notice, requiring all localities to “ admit to school all those who have make appropriate arrangements and returned to their native place, to enter into the database those who have returned and who do not yet have a school registration number. These students who have returned to their native place, must under no circumstances be omitted from the database and refused admittance to a school.”

Shi Heng has many times gone back and forth to his hometown of Handan to process his children’s school registration. “This is where their school registration is, so this is where they should attend school –that is the answer they give me.” The mother of Deng Xinran, a student attending Hongxiang School, has gone back to Chongqing to seek advice at the school where her permanent residence is. “They say, ‘You need to have your school registration number here, so once every year your child must come back for examinations.’” Obviously, the Ministry of Education document does nothing to resolve the real difficulties that non-permanent resident families are facing.

This year 22,000 non-permanent resident students will take the senior middle school entrance exam. On 06-24, Jingjing (alias) walked into the high school entrance exam hall at the Chaoyang branch campus of the People’s University Affiliated Middle School. However she had a different Examinee Certificate from her permanent resident schoolmates. Her examinee type was, “Beijing non-resident without qualifications for exam.” This meant she participated as one who takes the exam “at a place other than one’s residence.”

Beginning in 2010, Beijing has set up a provisional school registration status for students like Jingjing, administered by the district or county. But last year, with the establishment of the new national database, the provisional registration was abolished. Under the unification into one national database, all those non-permanent resident middle or high school students who had a provisional status granted by their locality, had this status removed, and they themselves were excluded from the database. They can no longer do as they did before. When they are third year high school students they must return to their hometown to take the university entrance exam. As for Jingjing, even if she passes the exam, she will not be able to go to a Beijing high school. she can only go back to her hometown and enter the high school there, if in the future she wants to take the university entrance exam.

Jingjing’s parents came back from abroad 16 years ago, and have lived in Beijing for many years. Her father said, “We have struggled in Beijing all this time, we never expected that our child when she reached high school would be forced to return to our hometown. There are family members there, but we have separated from them for a long time.” Last year in the 12th month the school held a meeting for families to explain the Education Commission’s notification. “At that time they told us we didn’t need to worry about the permanent or non-permanent residence problem. Then this year on 04-02 there was another notice, saying that ordinary high school students who were non-permanent residences could not take the university entrance exam. Three times we petitioned the Education Commission, each time the answer was the same –return to your hometown.”

On 05-18, Jingjing’s father along with 8 others filed a lawsuit against the Beijing Examination Branch. The Examination Branch explained itself in the court hearing as follows: For an individual pursuing an education beyond the compulsory stage [which ends at 3 years of middle school] it is the responsibility of the government at the permanent residence locality to manage this education process.When Beijing is the non-permanent residence, the Beijing Examination Branch can only offer additional places at the high school entrance exam [not university entrance exams for high school students], that is where our duty ends. Every level of the government has its own responsibilities, at present, according to the educational system and legal statues, the permanent residence locality takes the main role in providing education. The plaintiff lawyers responded, “at present there is no law or government stipulation stating that responsibility for education lies with the permanent residence locality.” In the course of the hearing, the plantiff added the Beijing Education Commission as a defendant in the case. On 07-11, the Haidian court rejected the plantiff’s [the eight household heads] request for a trial, and the household heads said they would appeal to a higher court.

paintiffs in front of the Haidian district court

paintiffs in front of the Haidian district court

This year 160,600 primary school students registered in the national database in Beijing. Of these, one third were non-permanent residents. Taking previous years into consideration, the overall amount has actually reached 50%, and is predicted to steadily increase. According to Sang Jinlong, associate dean at the Beijing Education Research Institute, in a ten year span starting in 2001, the permanent resident population of primary students increased four times in size, to a total of 324,000 individuals. The non-permanent resident population increased ten times in size, to 93,000.

A Chaoyang Education Commission staff member said, this year they will enroll 14,000 new permanent resident primary school students. They are still checking the qualifications of the non-permanent residents, but they are preparing places for 31,000 students. Last year the district’s primary schools had already reached a critical point, with a total of 21,000 students.

In Haidian there are 20,000 primary school graduates, but entering students number 27,000. They have more than 7000 students that they have no places for. Next year the situation will only be worse.

Changping has 5317 graduates this year, but entering students total 14,500. Of these, permanent residents students are 8328. In all, there are 9000 students they cannot place.

As we can see from these statistics, the Beijing school system is having trouble keeping up. But Beijing Education Commission Director Xian Lianping in a press conference, was optimistic. Beijing had transformed the way it ran schools, built new schools, added an appropriate amount of teachers, and, he was confident, had enough places to fit demand. Starting in 2012 Beijing city set in motion a plan to build more schools over the next three years. However, as the president of the Beijing Association for Education of Floating Population Children Rong Benyao said, “Overall they have enough school spaces to fill demand, but these are not equally distributed.” In the 3rd, 4th, 5th ring, and in the urban-rural unification area on the periphery of the city, spaces are few. In the outer suburb areas beyond the 5th and 6th rings, places set aside are many. Because a great many of the floating population is concentrated in the former area, they find themselves faced with a deficiency.

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